Global Protection Risks

Disinformation and Denial of Access to Information

This protection risk refers to all situations when information is used or denied with the consequence of causing harm to the population. Disinformation takes place when false information and statements are disseminated intentionally to cause serious social harm. Disinformation misleads the population and, as a side effect, interferes with the public’s right to know and the right of individuals to seek, receive, and impart information. The denial of access to information manifests in all situations where the freedom to 'receive and impart' information is impaired in such a manner and to such a degree that it hinders the capacity of the population to enjoy basic rights and fulfil basic needs. Harmful acts, measures and tactics on the use or denial of information may be driven by means of polarization – an intended act of dividing people or opinions in opposing groups – or on the basis of social constructs – concepts or believes based on views of a society (gender, age, disability, sexuality, race, political, philosophical and religious). With the current proliferation of social media, thise protection risk can manifest in the digital sphere or spread through a combination of both online and offline mechanisms.

What factors must be identified for monitoring? 

While monitoring this protection risk, it is important to report on all types of attacks, whether they are intentional or unintentional, directly or indirectly causing harm to civilian population and objects or perpetrated by State or non-State actors. It is also fundamental as well to identify whether attacks are indiscriminate: 1) when they do not distinguish between military and civilian population or objects (e.g. bombing a highly populated area); 2) whether the use of methods or means of warfare cannot be directed at a specific military objective; 3) the effects of which cannot be limited, (e.g. the use of cluster munitions in densely populated urban areas, the use of biological weapons and the use of mines in populated urban areas). It is essential as well to identify when attacks are disproportionate, when a party to the conflict carries out an attack on a military target which can be expected to cause loss of civilian life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects, which would be excessive (disproportionate) in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated (principle of proportionality). This risk is often the cause or driver of the other 14 protection risks.


What information & data can illustrate the presence of the risk? 

Generally, in situation of armed conflict there is a wealth of information on incidents, consequences of attacks and targeting. This data and information may be found beyond the monitoring done by the protection sector and requires a thorough analysis of primary and secondary sources. Civilians injured, killed, or incidents with direct impact on civilians or civilian infrastructure can be identified through: protection of civilian mechanisms, cluster-s’ specific monitoring and data, research and analysis centres, human rights monitoring mechanisms and partners, media, protection monitoring, UN missions’ dedicated mechanisms, and national bodies. Often it may not be possible to have precise numbers or statistics on attacks, due to access and other constraints. It is therefore important to use observation, expert judgement, triangulate available information, and ensure the reporting on the protection risk, independently from available statistics.


You can download the definition here.